THE terrorist bombings in Jakarta are a savage blow against Indonesian democracy and society that demonstrate the ferocious resilience of Islamist extremism as a motivating ideology, and the terrorist groups that give life to it.
No country has done more, or better, than Indonesia in fighting Islamist terrorism. There have been hundreds of arrests, dozens of transparent trials that have educated a sceptical Indonesian public about the intentions and capabilities of the Islamist groups. Hundreds of people have gone to jail long-term. A society-wide consensus has been forged against terrorism. The biggest and most influential Islamic groups all condemn terrorism without qualification.
Indonesia has not done all this to please Washington, still less to please Australia. The nation has taken this stand because it reflects Indonesia's values and interests and identity.
Indonesia is not a permissive environment for terrorism.
Yet seven years after the Bali bombings, Islamist terrorists can still blow up a five-star hotel, the JW Marriott which they bombed five years ago.
In hitting Jakarta's Ritz Carlton, they hit the very heart of Indonesia's commercial engagement with the world. Of course, they also stand a chance of hitting Jakarta's leading commercial and political figures.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, just re-elected President in a landslide victory, described the bombings as a cruel and inhuman act.
Kevin Rudd rightly described them as barbaric, said they were an attack on us all and that we remain under threat from terrorism.
SBY is right. This act is cruel not only to its victims but to all Indonesia, which has done so well to consolidate democracy, weather the global economic crisis and turn its face hard against extremism.
Rudd is also right -- we are all under threat from terrorism.
Islamist extremism is an exceptionally resilient and powerful ideology.
It is doing well in Pakistan and North Africa, and while suffering some reverses is still powerful in the Arab Middle East. Islamist terror groups remain strong in southern Thailand and the southern Philippines.
It is overwhelmingly likely that these latest bombings will turn out to be the work of Jemaah Islamiah or one of its breakaway groups.
Despite the magnificent work of the Indonesian authorities against JI, it and its breakaways remain strong and in several ways growing in danger.
There are genuine splits within JI, between those who favour ongoing immediate bombing campaigns and those who want to postpone the military phase of the struggle.
But there is no real disagreement on the Islamist vision of the need ultimately to establish a new Islamic fundamentalist caliphate and on the evil of the West. Abu Bakar Bashir, formerly the spiritual head of JI, is re-establishing a substantial network of schools and mosques and civic and publishing organisations. Bashir's latest organisation has no immediate record of violence but he has not changed his teachings at all and he has never renounced jihadist violence. In other words, the argument within JI and among its descendant groups is overwhelmingly tactical. There is no acceptance of democracy or even of the Indonesian state, much less the rights of Australians or other infidels.
Last year I spent some time with Detachment 88, the leading Indonesian counter-terrorist police squad. No one could fail to be impressed with the vigour of their efforts, or their sophisticated program to de-radicalise young Islamist extremists in custody, whereas in too many Western societies, prisons are the universities and finishing schools of Islamist extremism.
But despite the best efforts of Detachment 88, the inspired leadership of SBY, the close help and co-operation of the Australian Federal Police and the determined opposition of mainstream Indonesian society, a small but sizeable minority is determined to follow the Islamist extremist ideology to all its bitter conclusions. And a small minority in a nation of more than 200 million can do a great deal of damage.
These tragic bombings are just the latest battle in what remains, however unpopular the terminology, the long war.